By Paul Ainsworth

BELFAST City Council is facing a revolt from Lower Ormeau businesses and householders over fines for damage to bins allegedly caused by members of the Roma community.

One of the main charges against the local Roma residents is that some rummage through bins in local alleyways, causing damage and an increase in litter. A spokesman for the Roma community told us that the complaints were linked to one family (see story left).

The South Belfast News spoke with local businesses, some of whom claimed the Council has little sympathy with their plight. One local proprietor told us: “Our bin has been ruined before, no doubt about it, and shops on the Ormeau have been fined over the state of their bins too. Everybody complains, but they don’t seem to take it on board that they are victims of vandalism themselves. Residents in these streets have faced fines over bins too, and I know that some simply refuse to pay it, and why should they have to? No-one is racist, and the Roma are human beings just like us at the end of the day, but it’s a known problem and needs to be addressed.”

A staff member in another nearby outlet said: “The bins are always being raided, damaged and even stolen, yet it’s the owners who are fined. Even the alley gates do not stop this from happening.”

A refuse worker stopped to speak with us, and he confirmed that bins were targeted regularly in the Lower Ormeau.

“I see the resulting mess all the time, with rubbish strewn all over the place, and the bins removed completely in some cases. We try to keep the entries as clean as possible. I’ve worked this job a long time, but have never seen the problem as bad as it is in the last few years.”

A resident in Farnham Street told us: “I don’t have any bin now, it was ripped open and I couldn’t use it because of the damage. However, I refuse to pay for a new one and I’m forced to use a neighbour’s bin. The Council told me they wouldn’t replace it.”

A Council spokesperson told the South Belfast News that those named as bin owners were ultimately responsible for their care.

“It’s every resident’s responsibility to replace wheelie bins that are burnt or stolen.

“Council enforcement officers check these entries after waste collection and entry cleansing to ensure they are free from waste and litter. They will then monitor the entries until the next bin collection day. Enforcement officers will fine anyone who is caught littering or those that they can obtain sufficient evidence to fine or prosecute for illegal dumping.”

 

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